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How does Gospel understanding affect church health?

“What is the gospel?” asks the cashier at the grocery store. This comes on the heels of your questions, “Do you go to church? Have you believed the gospel?” What do you say?

You are caught off guard, and unconsciously pull out a gospel tract and hand it to the nice, young lady, explaining that a small booklet will answer her questions. You quickly gather your items and head for the door, simultaneously embarrassed by your forgetfulness and angered by your response.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever felt like you were unable to articulate the gospel? Well, you may have experienced this, but did you know churches experience it as well?

We are in a series that is discussing the question, “What is a healthy church?” Part of the answer to that question depends upon our understanding of the gospel.

We return to Mark Dever’s book, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, Dever gives us four negatives that help dispel confusion,

· “The good news is not simply that we are okay.”

· “The good news is not simply that God is love.”

· “The good news is not simply that Jesus wants to be our friend.”

· “The good news is not simply that we should live right.”[1]

We could spend a good deal of time dissecting these negative answers to the question, “What is the Gospel?” However, I think they immediately clear up the confusion and dispel the clouds that often skew our vision of the glorious gospel.

At the level of churches, one can also see how important this is within the walls of the church. It is paramount that churches avoid these “simply’s” of the gospel. Our churches need to understand what the Gospel is for several reasons.

If the church does not understand the Gospel, then the church cannot fulfill her mission (see Matt. 28:18-20). If the church does not understand the Gospel, then the church cannot disciple her members. If the church does not understand the Gospel, the question must be asked, “Is this a church?”

The stakes are high when discussing the gospel. But if you have followed this far, you will notice we have not answered the question, “What is the gospel?”

We turn our attention to Greg Gilbert, the author of What is the Gospel?[2] Gilbert summarizes his answer, drawing and relying upon Romans 1-4, writing, “We are accountable to the God who created us. We have sinned against that God and will be judged. But God has acted in Jesus Christ to save us, and we take hold of that salvation by repentance from sin and faith in Jesus.”[3]

That is the gospel in summary format. The entire Scriptures build upon this foundation (or, skeleton). As Glasser et. al. remark, “The whole Bible, both Old and New Testaments is a missionary book, the revelation of God’s purpose and action in mission in human history.”[4]

In order to understand the Gospel better, you need to read the Bible, God’s Gospel book (or, missionary book). Churches, in order to be healthy, need to understand the Gospel. Confusion of the Gospel not only hinders the health of the church at large, it also has the possible barring of people from salvation. For example, if a church does not preach the Gospel, let alone understand the Gospel, then the church could by default keep people away from their hope of salvation.

The church, which is made up of individuals like you, must have an intimate grasp of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Without it, it is unhealthy at best, and dead at worst.

[1] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church New Expanded Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 80-90. [2] Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010). [3] Gilbert, What is the Gospel?, 32. [4] Arthur F. Glasser, et. al., Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 17.


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